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Clearing the Underbrush: Indigenous Suppression and its Consequences

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

In 2008, Jenna Myers Karvunidis invented the “gender reveal party” with a pink cake. This pink cake signaled the imminent arrival of a daughter: a daughter who is now 18 years old and, ironically, doesn’t really care about the gender binary.

As gender reveal party compounded on gender reveal party, the craze became an opportunity for families to make a much larger than necessary deal out of their new babies’ genitals. Most recently, pyrotechnics at a gender reveal party sparked wildfires that, due to the extremely dry climate and overgrowth of forests, are threatening communities and the health of California residents.

A screenshot of the video released by the Forest Service of the start of the Sawmill Fire in Green Valley, Arizona.

Karvunidis recently had a change of heart saying, [paraphrased] “Gender reveal parties are stupid.” She’s right. And the reason they’re stupid is because they are myopic, suppressive of natural variability, and inherently colonial. You know what’s also myopic, suppressive of natural variability, and inherently colonial?


How Indigenous Suppression Causes Wildfires

European colonization is designed with the mission to suppress and control nature in order to establish [white cis-gendered male] humans as dominant. Humans who live in harmony with nature, therefore, are viewed as a nuisance and/or a threat that must be minimized. Today, we can clearly see the sociopathic nature of indigenous genocide, but people still have a hard time recognizing the sociopathic nature of indigenous suppression.

In America, colonization of indigenous peoples has not only resulted in the suppression of gender fluidity, but also suppression of indigenous cultural practices. One such practice is cultural burning.

Over at least the past 100 years, the United States government’s policies on forestry have been heavily influenced by German forestry (mind you, it rains regularly in Germany and the temperature is much milder than in the American west). These foresters saw the practices of native Southwest indigenous peoples and argued against them. Motivated by the desire to capitalize off of the timber industry, FE Olmstead identified indigenous cultural burning as “destruction,” saying in 1911:

“It is said that we should follow the savage’s [native’s] example of ‘burning up the woods’ to a small extent in order that they may not be burnt up to a greater extent bye and bye. This is not forestry; not conservation; it is simple destruction…the Government, first of all, must keep its lands producing timber crops indefinitely, and it is wholly impossible to do this without protecting, encouraging, and bringing to maturity every bit of natural young growth”

The reckless supremacist thinking of FE Olmstead, Aldo Leopold, and many others lead to the United States government’s outlaw of indigenous ceremonial burning, the Smoky Bear era of propaganda (where forest fires were viewed as “evil” and “bad”), and the infamous “10 a. m. policy” where all forest fires must be put out by 10 a. m. the next day. Subsequently, forests have grown out of control in the American west: a largely hot, dry desert where small trees and brush become no more than kindling for the uncontrolled, extremely destructive, and life threatening yearly fires in the region.

Hope for a De-Colonized Future

In an article published by NPR on August 24, 2020, Native Americans discussed how ravenous forest fires could have been easily prevented at no cost to the U.S. government if the leadership would simply yield to ancient indigenous wisdom and the people who hold it. Before their cultural burning practices were banned, the North Fork Mono used controlled forest fires to both (1) prevent dangerous forest fires and (2) encourage greater growth of healthier trees that can be used for practical reasons, including basket weaving. Indigenous peoples throughout the world have similar practices in their forests, have faced similar suppression, and the results have been catastrophic.

With California wildfires breaking records every year to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in private and public damages since 2018, the California government has become more open to learning what indigenous peoples have to teach. In February, a group of Natives, university students, government officials, and non-Native residents from around the town of Mariposa in Northern California gathered for a permitted cultural burning. Ron Goode, tribal chairman of the North Fork Mono, points to the ancient wisdom that has been suppressed by the folly of European capitalist grandiosity, saying:

“This is old land. It’s been in use for thousands and thousands of years. And so what we’re doing out here is restoring life” (NPR, 2020).

A Better Idea

As we have hopefully learned from some recent news headlines, a gender reveal party accompanied by blowing things up during dry season in the desert forest is a bad idea for, well, just about every reason imaginable.

So what does all this mean for the United States? Will the government continue its polarizing ignorance of ancient native culture, expensive solutions to cheaply preventable problems, debilitating burdens of loss on already struggling communities, dismissive suppression of natural processes, irrational fear of difference, and ultimately self destruct embarrassingly while the world looks on in bemusement? Or will it learn that the people they're trying to suppress frequently have the better ideas? Only time will tell.

Nevertheless, based on what we know about indigenous cultures, we can imagine what the celebration of a new child would be like in an America where native and indigenous perspectives are popular:

The “reveal” will occur on the child’s 1st birthday. Family and friends will gather to celebrate the mother and father's first year of caring for a newborn; an accomplishment that is truly worthy of congratulations. There will be lots of good food brought from all over, lots of dancing, drums, and singing followed by 3 days of controlled forest fire to clear the underbrush and make way for renewed life.

And no matter where you fall on the “gender” continuum, you won’t have to risk your life trying to escape an inferno.

© 2020 Cathryn D. Blue, PhD

Dr. Cathryn D. Blue is a social psychologist, artist, author, and contributor to

Note from the author:

In the coming months, I will be adding more content specifically designed for parents to use in home schooling curricula. *Social Studies: Grades 6-12*

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